Saturday, May 3, 2008

Empire of Dirt

Someone I know plays a Johnny Cash song once in a while. Hurt. It's mawkish and full of obvious rhymes, but his voice. Every ache, every fear, every regret, every betrayal committed or suffered -- it's a bit of a scream from hell.

Why can't we let go of pain?

So here are a couple of things I wrote just over a year ago. Sort of a set piece. I go through these moods. And it seems like the time to remind myself of how I am.



Stripped of sarcasm, of humor. Stripped of sentimentality or sincerity, of compassion or rage. Stripped of ego and emotion and intellect and eloquence. Stripped of honor and of pain. Stripped. Naked, then. And he stands solely to be examined.

Well. We see him simply as a specimen of mankind. We consult our expectations and find he has not lied. He is a man. Standing slack as he is, as if a dead body propped up, we find no nobility in him. A sleeping animal, or entranced, or stunned, bare and dusted lightly with hair. Pale. Lean, like an older lion who still must hunt. We can see the years he has referenced as stiffness when he moves.

There is an asymmetry to his features, that must have come with the years. Time has twisted him more than burned -- he will end as shreds rather than ashes. A face surprisingly unlined. A sullenness of lips. Some creping about the eyes. They are too deep, and expressionless during this experiment, but we may please ourselves to think that they give some hint of character. Perhaps it is simply weariness -- his or perhaps ours -- but we think we see something in them. Compassion and fear look too much alike though, in the eyes. Long of bone he is, and they show through his skin. Broad and rawboned. Covered by muscle like thick leather.

He is a not displeasing specimen, but exceptional only because so few of his kind have taken similar care. Not pretty, certainly. Perhaps not handsome, although that is so much a matter of preference. We can see how some have thought him pleasing. We can just as well see the other point of view -- we do however feel that such a view would have been formed under some prejudice.

He looks tired. It may be age. We are weary too. He gave us quite a chase, this old lion, and he was not subdued with ease. We took him unawares. He did not think he could be found in his deepest hiding place. But we understand that no place is secure.

He seemed to come quietly, seemed resigned to this inevitability. But then something in him must have snapped and he strained against the bonds as if to break his bones. This he did for much longer than intelligence would warrant. First it was amusing, then sad. We felt pity for him. Finally, after far too long, he realized the futility and despaired. There is no escape. And the lion became the lamb.

We have his body now. We do not know where he has gone. He must have found some deeper hiding place. But we will not stop our search, and when we find him we will pull him out and examine his heart as we have his body. He thinks he is safe. We understand that there is no safe place.



Someone must have been watching H, because without having done anything unusual, he found himself examined and in peril of his life. That someone, those someones who have been watching -- they do have power over him, of which he is unaware or unwilling to acknowledge.

H, you understand why you have been called here?

I don't know what you're talking about. I don't understand any of this. What's going on here?

It is natural to be confused. The concern is over some troubling things that you have produced.

What do you mean, produced?

Some of the things you have posted.

Yeah? What about them?

Take this recent example. You describe ... here it is: "The first one is of the Prophet Mohammad, PBUH, buried under a huge splattering of monkey feces." Do you have any sense of how offensive this is?

It doesn't offend me.

Don't be jejune. You are not unaware of the fact that Muslims will use actual violence to protect the holiness of their faith. Yet you use the very most vulgar images to insult them.

That is not the very most vulgar thing I could have said. Believe me.

Perhaps you are referring to this, where you have the Prophet sodomized by a rhinoceros. You describe such an image as "funny." Do you really think it was funny, H? And before you answer, please consider the gravity of your reply. Very much indeed depends on it.

Well first of all, I would hope you understand the concept of satire.

We are well aware of the concept, H.

Good. Then maybe you can understand that my message is not contained solely in the black-letter meaning of the words or images. I have something deeper in mind.

There is no need to instruct us, H. Yours is the tiresome excuse of every adolescent who masquerades his cynicism and mediocrity as art.

Why are we even having a discussion, then, since you know all the answers?

This is not a discussion.

An inquisition then. And you are? What, the Masters of CyberSpace? The Blog Lords?

You begin to understand. Is that all you have to say in your defense?

Yeah, Skeletor, just what am I defending myself against? You don't like my blog? Don't read it. It's not like abortion, idiot. It's not a life or death issue.

Yet you know that it is. You would be beaten to death, in the streets of Ramallah.

Good thing I'm not in Ramallah then. Or on the dark side of the moon. Or in hell. Or in your anus.

You are playing at being obtuse. The point, as you know, is that your words would arouse murderous passions.

My words for the day are "self" and "control".

And you have no part in the matter? You make a poor Pilate, with your dirty hands.

You're the ones playing at being the judge. And isn't it my dirty mouth that's the problem? Don't mix your metaphors.

You pretend to take it all as a joke. Why then do you bring such passion to it? -- your jottings here?

Golly, your questions are so probing and thought-provoking. Thank you for taking such an interest in my personal private inner life. Let me respond in kind. Which hand to you wipe your ass with?

The question was about your passion, H. Even your absurd efforts usually deteriorate into some bathetic plea for sympathy. You turn the bulk of your outward wrath upon the Muslims. Yet you claim to be compassionate.

You know, that doesn't even make sense. Why don't you slow down and try to organize your thoughts. I'll wait. But a little hint -- don't try to pronounce words that are too big for your mouth. I do not fucking believe you. With all the incredible filth and insanity on the internet, you're worried about me? Hey genius, nobody reads me. Get it? Just how stupid are you, anyway.

Your insolence is noted.

Yeah, well, note this.

Moving on, we have observed your antagonistic references to God.

Oh, this is an Ecclesiastical Court? Your pardon I pray, your Eminences. I took your black robes for evening gowns.

More foolishness. You have been warned about your impertinence.

Or what? Who the hell are you to question me. It's my blog, I'm responsible for it, and I'll stand behind it. If you don't get it that's just your problem. Go look at some porn site and good riddance. You wouldn't recognize genius if it stood before you like it is right now. Idiots.

Yes -- your preoccupation with porn and your own self-proclaimed genius.

Glad I could give you a few seconds of vicarious pleasure. And how flattering! You know how high my IQ is. Which one was that in? The one about I'm Smarter Than You ... that would be because I'm smarter than you. One of my best, that one is. But they're all one of my best.

Wasn't it satire?

True things can also be satire.

So you say. We do not concern ourselves either with satire or with self-serving testimony about genius. Genius, as you should know, is not a number, but a result.

Gasp! Such insight! And I'm desperately contrite about referring to it. After you did, I mean. Sorry if my true testimony also happens to be self-serving. Sounds like you'd prefer that it harm me. Hardly a fairminded attitude, is it.

H, we do not concern ourselves here with what is fair. This is not a court of justice. Did you make that mistake?

I never expect justice anymore.

We have noted as much. And we warn you that you are making a poor showing for yourself.

I live to please you. Will it help if I confess that I'm very unhappy and don't see any prospect for a change? You'd like that, right?

H, that you don't like yourself will not excuse you.

Well fuck you all to hell. I don't need your excuse, cupcake.

Which brings us to the final issue. Do you think anyone likes you, H?

It's none of your business what I think.

Do you think anyone likes you?

Yes, asshole, I do think people like me.

Really? Do you really?

Yes. Really. Honestly and truly, and golly, for reals too!

Yes, you think so. Do you feel so?

Fuck you.

Do you feel liked?

Fuck you.

Do you?


No, you don't. You understand. You can interpret the objective evidence and conclude that there are some people who "like" you, whatever that is worth. But you cannot accept that intellectual conclusion as true in a meaningful way. You feel unloved, unliked, disliked. You feel worthless. You feel stupid. You feel meaningless.

You're very fucking wise.

And you are not wrong, H. Your life is meaningless. You are not liked. You are a joke that no one finds funny. You are alone, and will remain alone. Unloved, untouched, consumed with insecurity, defending yourself from phantoms, grieving the sunlight and dreading the night. You will spit poison at shadows and find your soul more bitter with every wasted moment. God has turned his face from you. You are a waste.

Then why don't you just take me into an alley and shoot me in the head like a dog?

We will, H. We will.

One morning H awoke and found he had metamorphosed sometime during the night into a large and monstrous insect. No one noticed, or if they did, no one cared. Not even H.


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